Rosemary Cocktail Onions

I’m kind of addicted to tiny vegetables–baby carrots, mini eggplants, and of course, tiny onions. Not to mention that I love savory cocktails, so cocktail onions are kind of a necessity around here. Unfortunately, some of the commercial ones have either a really flat and bland flavor profile or a ton of preservatives that you don’t really need. So, I made my own. It’s slightly herbal, but the brine itself is still simple enough that it doesn’t have a ton of strong flavors that would compete with the onions.

Some notes: If you grow your own rosemary and bay leaves, they’ll make this recipe even better. Otherwise, if you don’t have access to the fresh stuff a dried bay leaf and a couple pinches of dried rosemary will work too. Also, you’ll make more brine than you need when you prepare this recipe. I prefer having too much brine to not enough so I don’t have to stop the whole preparation process to make another batch. This recipe yields one pint, but you can multiply it very easily.

Rosemary Cocktail Onions

10 oz white pearl onions
6 peppercorns
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
2 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs rosemary

-Prepare your canning jars (I used two half pint jars) by placing in boiling water to sterilize (if you haven’t canned before, this is a pretty good tutorial)
-Combine all ingredients besides onions and rosemary in a pan and simmer for ten minutes.
-Meanwhile, drop the onions (peels and all) into boiling water and boil for three minutes.
-Remove the onions to a bowl of ice water.
-Cut off the root end of the onion, and gently squeeze the top to push the onion out of its skin.
-Remove sterilized jars from water and add a rosemary sprig to the bottom of each.
-Divide the onions between the jars, and ladle hot brine over them to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of space in the jar.
-Top with lids and rings, place in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes.

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Lacto-Fermented Pesto

I planted a ton of basil this year, and I’ve been looking for ways to preserve it so I can enjoy it in the winter. I searched around for lacto-fermented pesto recipes, but all the ones I found seemed to have a ton of brine in them. Then the thought occurred that I could modify the sauerkraut recipe I use to get enough basil packed in the jars to make a thicker pesto. Best of all, it’s super easy! Once the pesto is done fermenting, just dump the whole jar into the blender or food processor and process until it’s the texture you like. As an added bonus, toss the stems in some water with some sugar and a pinch of sea salt to make an excellent basil simple syrup.
I made two jars so I could try it out, and it worked very well! I ate one jar right away, and canned the other in a hot water bath to see if it would hold up (it does). The flavor is about the same as regular old pesto, but slightly more savory thanks to the fermentation process. Because it’s packed in brine, it also is thinner than traditional pesto, but still is a good consistency to toss with pastas, stir in to soups, or add to just about anything else!

Jars of pesto

The jars prior to fermenting.

Lacto-Fermented Pesto

~3 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 1/2-2 c water
2 cloves garlic
2 pint jars

-Tightly pack the basil leaves into the pint jars, pressing down as you add more leaves to the jars.
-Place a clove of garlic on top of each jar.
-Mix the salt in the water until dissolved.
-Pour the brine over the leaves until they are covered.
-Place the lids of the jars and set aside for two weeks to ferment.

Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup basil stems
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch sea salt

-Combine water, salt, and basil in a pot.
-Heat until simmering, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the infusion is as strong as you would like.
-Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pickled Turmeric

I got a bunch of fresh turmeric from Red Hills Online Market last week with the intention of testing it out as a pickle. The recipes I found mostly used lemon juice, but I have a ton of oranges left over for making a 60-person King Cake for a New Orleans-themed party, so I decided to use them up. Here’s the recipe that inspired me, although I’m using the juice of more pieces of citrus so the proportions are a bit different. If you want to use lemon juice or learn more about the healing properties of turmeric, check it out! Next up, I’m thinking of doing a lacto-fermented turmeric pickle. If anyone has other suggestions for fresh turmeric root, let me know!

Fresh turmeric, washed and peeled (I peel it my rubbing it with a spoon. This was about 1/2 a pound, which is the size the bags I got were).
1 1/2 tbsp salt
Juice of 3 oranges (depending on the size of your jar–I wanted my juice to cover my turmeric).

-Slice the turmeric into 1/4 inch pieces (it stains all the things, so bear that it mind before you set it on anything you don’t want stained).
-Place the turmeric into a jar.
-Add the juice and salt, put the lid on, and shake to combine.
-Pop it in the fridge and wait a few days
-Eat!

Note (aka Pickled Turmeric for the Lazy): I made some without peeling it or even seeding the oranges, and it turned out fine. Peeling it *is* a bit of a pain if you have especially knobby turmeric. The seeds of the oranges just end up in the brine, and if you decide to use the brine for something (brines are great in salad dressing…) you can always fish them out, so don’t stress yourself out about getting every single one.

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways

From left to right: Peppery tangerines, chai spiced, and herbed.

Here in Florida, you stumble across tasty winter citrus every time you go shopping. The last time I went to get produce at Tomatoland (kind of like a permanent farm stand/small grocery store), there were big stacks of tangerines calling my name. I bought dozens of them, thinking I would make some marmalade, but I’m still eating up my last batch of marmalade and wanted to do something a bit different. I always have preserved lemons in my fridge: when I’m almost out I just toss some more together and wait a few weeks. Usually I just add salt and sliced lemons to a jar, but I’ve been wanting to add spices. These tangerines provided the perfect opportunity to experiment! I had grand plans for waiting to post this until the tangerines are done preserving (it does take several weeks), but I felt eager to share the fruits of my labor while there’s still plenty of time to use in-season citrus. Given how easy it is to make these things, they’re pretty much guaranteed to turn out well, so that makes it a little easier to share now too. A couple notes here: you don’t have to be a slave to the measuring spoon with these. I usually just add a layer of citrus and sprinkle on salt (and herbs and spices, if I’m using them) between each layer. As I add a new layer of citrus, I press them down before sprinkling with salt. Basically the process looks like this:
Slice citrus into wedges, salt bottom of jar. Add a layer of wedges, press, sprinkle with salt. Add another layer, press, salt, and repeat until your jar is full. Honestly, I have never measured the salt and they turn out fine. Just make sure you are  salting and packing them tightly so that your citrus releases its juices. Then, leave the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month, shaking them when you think about it. Keep an eye on them the first few days, though: if they haven’t released enough juice to cover the fruit, add some more freshly squeezed juice to the jars and re-cover. After 3-4 weeks, you’ll have soft, yummy citrus you can add to just about anything, plus delicious brine that makes great dressings and sauces!

Chai Spiced Tangerines
I always have this spice mixture around, too. If you go to the link, you’ll find the proprotions of the spices to use (make sure to toast them first!), and you can use them in chai syrup or blend the dry spices with tea. I use them to flavor sauces and desserts too. These tangerines would be good in sweet and savory applications: I could see them going well in a rice dish with lots of raisins and toasted nuts, or sliced and put on top of a chocolate cake.
For this recipe, makes sure your spices cool completely after toasting. You can leave the toasted spices whole or you can grind them in a spice grinder. I made mine a couple days ago and ground them, so I went with the ground spices. I used about 2 1/2 tbsp of the ground spices for a pint of preserved tangerines. I also used sea salt in this and the other recipes because I like it’s clear, briny flavor best. You can also use kosher salt if you feel so inclined, but you may have to adjust the amount.

1/4 c sea salt
2 1/2 tbsp ground chai spices
2-3 tangerines, cut into wedges

-Sprinkle some salt and spices in the bottom of a pint jar.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Top with another layer of salt and spices.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt and spices.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Peppery Tangerines
These tangerines use spices that I see in a lot of recipes for preserved lemons, which means I’ll be substituting them in recipes where spiced, preserved lemons are used (Moroccan cooking, for example). There are plenty of examples over at Punk Domestics to provide inspiration!

1/4 c sea salt
2 small bay leaves
1 dried cayenne pepper, halved (you could substitute other peppers here: guajillo peppers, for example, would make for a nice smoky addition)
1 tsp peppercorns (I had tricolored peppercorns, but you can use black peppercorns or whatever ones you have around)

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the cayenne pepper.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add bay leaves.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add peppercorns.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Herbed Tangerines
The flavors I used here remind me of the flavors found in foods from Provence. I’m planning on using these tangerines to spice up French dishes and to flavor roasted chicken.

1/4 c sea salt
1/2 whole nutmeg nut (I had one that I had partially used for grating, if you only have a whole nut you can just use that and rough up the surface so it releases its flavor).
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp lavender flowers

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the nutmeg.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add rosemary sprig.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add lavender.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

This recipe is on Punk Domestics!

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways on Punk Domestics

Independence Days Challenge

Thanks to my friend Anisa, I just learned about the Independence Days Challenge–the goal of which is to record the steps we take to reduce our dependence on supermarket food. I’ll let you read the categories on your own, but each highlights a different way we might approach independence. I think most people who are participating will be blogging about it weekly, but I plan on taking the approach Anisa is and adding text in the sidebar of my blog that is easier to read and track (and quick to update). I hope you’ll consider participating too so we can all keep track of the awesome local foodways we are building!